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The Concept behind "Coming of Age in a Pandemic"

In the 1920’s, her mentor,  Franz Boas, suggested Margaret Mead study adolescence. He hoped such a study might settle the “nurture vs nature” debate dominating the social sciences of the time.

The rest is history (the history of Anthropology, anyway) Coming of Age in Samoa would go on to become a seminal work of Cultural Studies.

Of course, Mead’s study is not without controversy. But no study has done more to highlight the importance and urgency of understanding teen culture.

Of course, much has changed since Coming of Age in Samoa was first published in 1928. Mead would scarcely recognize the fashion and trends of today’s American teenagers. Yet, “the rebellion against authority, philosophical perplexities, the flowering of idealism, conflict and struggle” that shape today’s teen would most likely feel very familiar to Mead.

Had she been alive today, Mead would surely be interested in the lives of teenagers during the pandemic. She was a student of social change, fascinated by whether, in a society that is changing, people feel “more strongly about new things or old things.”

Introducing Coming of Age in a Pandemic.

When the high school students behind Coming of Age in a Pandemic set out to capture the experiences and stories of their fellow teens during the pandemic, they knew to skip the comparative method, to avoid an overly romanticized “coming of age’ narrative and to abandon the search for a single cause to “the storm and stress” of adolescence.

Instead, they set out to capture each other’s stories and share each others’ insights authentically and in real time.

I have no doubt Mead would have considered Coming of Age in a Pandemic not only a “current comment” of adolescence but a historical record of teen life during a uniquely tumultuous time.

David Lopilato
Sponsor, Coming of Age in a Pandemic

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